FRESNO COUNTY, California (KSEE/KGPE) – On Tuesday, the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra made a stop in Fresno to announce nearly $4 million in grants to help local law enforcement crackdown on the illegal sale of tobacco and vaping products to minors.

Local agencies are taking action against what they call a “public health crisis.”

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims says it is important now more than ever to get the message out to the youth about the health dangers of vaping and tobacco use.

“One of the most important things we do is prevention, it’s very important for us to be involved in preventing the use of tobacco products that can dangerous to our young people,” says Mims.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office was among 13 local agencies across the Valley receiving money to help crackdown on the illegal sale of cigarettes tobacco products to minors.

“Tobacco and nicotine use especially through vaping pose a serious threat to our public health,” says Becerra.

The Attorney General says from 2011 to 2018 cigarette smoking has gone down among middle and high school students in California, but unfortunately, he says that decrease was met with the rise of vaping.

“Here in California one in eight high school students are using tobacco and of those about 84 percent are vaping,” Becerra explained.

As of last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported there were more than 800 confirmed and probable cases of lung injuries related to E-cigarettes.

“There have been at least 12 known deaths related to vaping in the U.S.,” Becerra stated.

Two of those he says were here in California. One of them happened just a few weeks ago in Tulare County, even though that was an adult man, Mims says prevention and awareness are key.

She says the Fresno County District Attorney has already filed four cases against businesses violating the law.

“We will address the problems that do exist but vaping is important to us,” she says.

Becerra says the money comes from cigarette and tobacco tax revenue that’s available from the Department of Justice’s Tobacco Grant Program, funded by Proposition 56 (Prop. 56), the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016.

He says the money is benefiting several programs.

“Between April and June of 2019, nearly 1,800 decoy operations were conducted across the State of California and more than 1,000 tobacco education events were held for K-12 students including vapor awareness education programs,” Becerra explained.

He says it’s up to each department on how they want to use the funds to crack down on cigarettes and tobacco products, some hold educational events, others post video ads on Youtube and social media.